Against public-law concealment of war crimes

by Eva-Maria Föllmer-Müller

On 10 July 2020, a lawsuit against a Central German Broadcasting Corporation’s (MDR) decision to issue a notice of objection was heard at the Administrative Court in the German city of Leipzig. This lawsuit makes one sit up and take notice, since a physician had filed a complaint against MDR because the broadcaster had refused to comply with the plaintiff’s objection to the fees. The case history: for several years, the physician had refused to pay the monthly fees of 17.50 euros for public broadcasting (ARD, ZDF, Deutschlandradio, etc.), which have been imposed on every household since 2013. For this refusal he had declared reasons of conscience, namely:
     The filmmaker and Grimme Prize winner Frieder Wagner had produced a documentary on the use of uranium ammunition (DU) for WDR in 2004 (“Der Arzt und die verstrahlten Kinder von Basra – The Doctor, the Depleted Uranium and the Dying Children”). In 2004, after having once broadcast this documentary about the harmful effects of depleted uranium (DU) in war zones – without the usual advance notice and therefore with a lower viewing rate – the WDR had not given Frieder Wagner any more commissions. Since then Wagner has not received any more commissions from any public broadcaster. Neither has any of the public broadcasters reported in a balanced way on the devastating consequences and increasing cancer rates caused by the tons of DU ammunition dropped or fired in all the wars since 1991 (second Iraq war) in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Somalia, Libya. The broadcasters did not report on this despite the fact that in the meantime relatives of deceased NATO soldiers have gained recognition with their complaints against the state in Italy, in Serbia, and most recently in France (Current ConcernsNo. 13 of 23 June 2020); despite the fact that scientific research has repeatedly produced evidence for more than 20 years; despite the fact that in the meantime, Serbian lawyer Srdan Aleksic from the Serbian town of Nis, together with an international team, is preparing a class action lawsuit against the Nato states (or perhaps due to that very fact)? The broadcasters have been silent on the topic, although numerous organisations and individuals have repeatedly been calling for a ban on the deadly DU munitions … and the cancer rates in the affected countries are still rising – wherever war-torn countries have the opportunity to even detect this fact at all. There are numerous publications, documentations and articles on this topic.
    Back to our starting point: The Leipzig physician concerned has been working as a specialist in internal medicine with a focus on nephrology in hospitals in Germany, England and the USA for over 20 years. He mainly treats patients with acute or chronic kidney failure. Therefore he must consider those activities a particular threat which he suspects of promoting and/or condoning acute or chronic kidney failure. For him this includes the use of uranium ammunition. Twenty years ago, the physician himself had accompanied an English officer suffering from acute kidney failure after his wartime deployment in Iraq. He said that as a physician committed also to the prevention of diseases, he could not reconcile it with his conscience if the public were not informed about the devastating consequences of the lethal DU weapons by public broadcasters, whose mission it is to provide comprehensive information: “ARD and ZDF have a special mission: They inform the population so comprehensively and in such a diverse way that everyone can form their own opinion, for example on political issues. That is important for democracy. To achieve this, ARD and ZDF must be independent of financial backers and advertising revenues that might be able to influence them. That is why everyone in Germany is jointly responsible for meeting the expenses of ‘public law’ broadcasting.” (
    The doctor had offered a settlement – that he would pay his broadcasting contribution in cash to Frieder Wagner for his work as a freelance employee of the ARD. This would be a compensation, since Frieder Wagner had never again succeeded in getting any kind of contract from public broadcasting after his documentary on uranium ammunition.
    In his plea at the hearing, the physician stated that, as shown by its unbalanced reporting on the subject and the fact that Frieder Wagner was not awarded any further contracts, the public broadcasting service had to that day upheld an ideological commitment, the support of which, in form of a broadcasting contribution, the physician could not reconcile with his personal conscience. Not only was the principle of equal treatment within the European Union being violated, but the radio contribution was also purpose-limited by being used to spread an unbalanced idea about uranium ammunition. The alleged absence of any such purpose-limitation of radio programmes is the legal standard-argument against the refusal to pay the radio contribution on grounds of conscience, but earmarking can also arise from deliberate concealment of information!
     The Administrative Court referred the case to the next instance.
    It is currently the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If it is – even after 75 years – not possible to report comprehensively on the devastating consequences of the use of nuclear weapons – and the use of uranium weapons is one of these – there is still a need for correction.  •

* Link to english version of “The Doctor, the Depleted Uranium and the Dying Children”:

Who are the “public service” broadcasters?

The ARD broadcasting family:

Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR)
Hessischer Rundfunk (hr)
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (mdr)
Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR)
Radio Bremen
Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb)

Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR)
Südwestrundfunk (SWR)

Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)

And also:

Deutsche Welle (DW)
Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF)

General programming principles

“Programming principles are laid down in the respective broadcasting laws of the Länder. In addition to the balance of reporting, they usually stipulate that human dignity must be respected and protected in broadcasts. Furthermore, the programmes should be committed to the truth.”


German Basic Law, Article 5

  1. Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures, and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.

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